Chronic. In the endless saga of Brexit, the discourse on innovation plays a key role. Before the referendum, the propaganda for the "Leave" explained how the United Kingdom was a country of innovators, chained to the regulatory constraints of a bureaucratic European Union (EU). The precautionary principle would be anti-science and the other European countries wet hens, quasi-Luddies blocking true progress. With a massive sophism: if the Google and other Amazon were American, it was obviously the fault of the EU.
Despite the fears of researchers and the cold sweat of industrialists face the prospect of Brexit, this speech did not disappear after the vote. In March 2018, Premier Theresa May spoke of the United Kingdom as"A nation of pioneers, innovators, explorers … the leader of the industries of the future". In his first prime minister's speech on July 24, Boris Johnson boasted: "We know the enormous strengths of our economy in the life sciences, technology, universities … We are the world leaders on batteries that will solve climate change and produce the next generation of green jobs. " Cruel, the magazine New Scientist compared the 246 million pounds (285 million euros) invested by the government on this subject to 19 billion dollars (17 billion euros) of Tesla or Panasonic and 20 billion euros of Volkswagen. Worse: because of Brexit, the English car industry – in fact owned by foreign capital – has significantly reduced its spending on research and development (R & D). And the trend is general: UK R & D spending is falling, and even this year it has fallen below that of France – which is not a model in this area. Labor productivity is also lower than elsewhere, which is not really a sign of the ultra-innovative economy that Mr. Johnson is talking about.
The end of an era
Why then these illusions? One could give many reasons for this: the glorious memories of Newton or Watt? A handful of good universities from the Shanghai ranking? A new vacuum cleaner model (Dyson was a national hero before he relocated to Singapore)?